Felony Drug Charges in California

The state of California takes felony drug cases very seriously. However, they approach such crimes differently than many other states. California assigns punishments for drug crimes on a case-by-case basis. There are not fixed classifications for drug crimes. People caught with a controlled substance in the state could be charged with a misdemeanor, a felony, or even a lesser infraction. However, felony charges result in the most severe consequences. Anyone convicted of a felony drug crime will receive prison times and could be subject to expensive fines.

Classification of Controlled Substances in California

The state of California classifies controlled substances in a similar manner to the federal government. There are increasing penalties for each classification, also known as schedules. The penalties for possessing a Schedule V drug are the lightest, whereas the penalties for possessing a Schedule I drug are the most severe.

Schedule V Drugs

Schedule V drugs are drugs that can be prescribed to people by doctors for legitimate medical purposes but are illegal to use or possess without a valid prescription. These are the least dangerous of the controlled substances and the least likely to result in long-term addiction issues. Some examples of drugs classified in Schedule V in California include:

  • Codeine
  • Ethylmorphine
  • Difenoxin
  • Buprenorphine
  • Dihydrocodeine

Schedule IV Drugs

Schedule IV drugs also have legitimate medical use with a valid, legal prescription. However, these drugs are more likely to result in addiction than those in Schedule V. Some examples of drugs in Schedule IV include:

  • Xanax
  • Ativan
  • Ambien
  • Tramadol
  • Phentermine
  • Fenfluramine
  • Pemoline

Schedule III Drugs

Schedule III drugs in California are known to have very little legitimate medicinal value and are rarely prescribed by healthcare professionals. These drugs are also more addictive and more likely to result in long-term substance abuse issues with regular use. Schedule III covers a broader range of drugs. Some examples of Schedule III drugs include:

  • Ketamine
  • Steroids
  • Benzphetamine
  • Lysergic acid
  • Pentobarbital
  • Mazindol
  • Nalorphine
  • Clortermine

Schedule II Drugs

Some drugs in Schedule II do not have any legitimate medical value. The drugs in this classification are known to result in addiction when used regularly. Some of these substances are only dangerous when abused; however, some of them are dangerous to use even once. Some of the drugs in Schedule II in California are:

  • Methamphetamine
  • Barbitals
  • Opium
  • Adderall
  • OxyContin
  • Morphine
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Ritalin
  • Vicodin

Schedule I

Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous, most addictive drugs. These drugs have no widely accepted medical use and can almost never be obtained in a legal manner. Every drug in Schedule I can result in addiction and being caught with these drugs can result in the most severe penalties. Some examples of drugs in Schedule I include:

  • Ecstasy
  • Cocaine
  • Mescaline
  • Peyote
  • Cannabis
  • PCP
  • Heroin

Consequences of Drug Possession

In California, most drug possession cases are treated as a misdemeanor since Proposition 47 has been passed. Proposition 47 was enacted in 2014, and part of the proposition lowered specific drug crimes to misdemeanors if they were nonviolent. This includes, in most cases, simple drug possession. This misdemeanor is punishable by 1 year in jail, a fine of $1,000, community service, or a combination of those penalties. However, drug possession can still be considered a felony charge in California if there are aggravating factors.

A person will be charged with a felony for drug possession if they were previously convicted of any sex crime that required them to register as a sex offender. Some examples of those crimes are:

  • Incest
  • Lewd or lascivious acts with a child
  • Indecent exposure
  • Sexual battery
  • Rape
  • Aggravated sexual assault on a child under 14
  • Sodomy

Anyone who has a prior conviction for a serious felony will see their drug charges raised from a misdemeanor to a felony. Serious is not just a description when it comes to felonies in California. There are specific felonies the state labels as serious, including:

  • Attempted murder
  • Arson
  • Stealing a car
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Arson
  • Assault with the intent to commit a rape or a robbery
  • Robbing a bank

Anyone who is convicted of simple possession of a controlled substance who has certain prior felony convictions will face more severe consequences because of their felony charge. They may go to prison for a sentence between 16 months and 3 years long. Those sentences are increased for anyone in the same position who possesses the drug with the intent to sell it. They may face a jail sentence between 2 and 4 years long.

Common Defenses for Drug Possession Charges

Anyone facing a drug possession charge will need a strong defense. An experienced drug crimes attorney can help their client compile the relevant evidence and build a strong defense for them to use in court. Some examples of commonly used defenses in drug possession cases include:

  • Unlawful Search and Seizure: Citizens are afforded certain protections under the 4th amendment, one of which is the right to lawful search and seizure. It is only legal for authorities to search someone’s property or body under certain specific circumstances. For example, if an officer opens someone’s trunk without permission during a traffic stop and finds drugs, that person may be able to argue that the drugs were found illegally and therefore should not be admitted as evidence.
  • Not the Owner: It is a common defense in drug possession cases for the defendant to say that the drugs do not belong to them. However, this can be difficult to prove. The prosecution in such a case is only responsible for proving that the defendant had access to the drugs. For example, if drugs are found in someone’s vehicle but they belong to the passenger, the driver may still be charged with possession because they had control over the substance while it was in their vehicle.
  • Entrapment: If a law enforcement officer lures a suspect into a crime they would not have committed otherwise, that suspect has been entrapped. Entrapment is complicated; however, it is illegal, and anyone arrested for drug possession on the basis of a crime committed due to entrapment can use that as a defense in court.

We’ll Fight on Your Behalf

Contact the Law Offices of Brian C. Andritch today if you are facing drug possession charges. We understand that this is a difficult time in your life, and our goal is to help you protect both your rights and your freedom. We will examine every aspect of your case to work on getting your charges lowered or dropped altogether. Contact us at (559) 484-2112 or through our online form to learn more.

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